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Real Estate Laws on Deed Restrictions & Reservations

by Shawn M. Grimsley, studioD

Real estate is conveyed by the seller giving the buyer a deed, which grants the buyer title to the propert. However, a deed often contains more than the grant of the property. Deeds may also contain reservations and restrictions, which may limit the manner in which the buyer will be able to use the property.

Deed Reservations

A deed reservation reserves certain property rights to the grantor -- the seller. For example, a grantor that subdivides land may reserve an easement over the land for access to a roadway or water. Some deeds reserve mineral rights to the property. In fact, mineral rights on certain properties may be more valuable than the surface rights granted in the deed. If mineral rights are reserved, the owner of the mineral rights will have a right to access the land to extract the minerals.

Deed Reservations and the Life Estate

A grantor may also reserve a life estate when conveying property, a strategy sometimes used for estate planning purposes. A person who holds a life estate usually has the right to possess, use and enjoy the property for the duration of either the person's natural life or the life of another person. A life estate for the duration of the life of another is called a life estate pur autre vie. Once the life estate terminates, title passes to the remainderman.

Deed Restrictions

Deed restrictions are provisions that purport to restrict the buyer's -- grantee -- use of the property. Subdivision developers will often place building restrictions on parcels to keep the size, quality, and nature of the housing relatively consistent in an effort to maintain the market value of the subdivision. For example, some divisions may only allow the construction of single detached housing with three car garages. Deed restrictions usually cannot be removed unless they are unenforceable.

Unenforceable Deed Restrictions

Some deed restrictions are unenforceable because they violate an important public policy. Common examples of unenforceable deed restrictions include any provision on a deed that restrictions subsequent conveyance of the property based upon race, color, national origin, religion or sex. A deed restriction that attempts to prohibit further conveyance generally is unenforceable as a restraint on alienation. In real estate, alienation means the ability to freely transfer property. Some reasonable restraints on alienation, such as a right of first refusal, may be enforceable.

About the Author

Shawn M. Grimsley holds a bachelor's degree in political science, master's degree in public administration and a Juris Doctor. He practiced law for 10 years, focusing on general business law, securities law, real estate and civil litigation. Grimsley now serves as a teacher and writer.

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